Updated for the Paperback Edition
During his first term as secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan was one of the most widely admired men in the world. In 2001, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Then the UN failed to stop war in Iraq and genocide in Darfur, and the institution was engulfed by the Oil-for-Food scandal. By the time Annan left office in December 2006, both he and the UN had suffered a terrible loss of standing.
Did the UN’s failures arise from its own structure and culture or from a clash with an American administration determined to go its own way in defiance of world opinion?
In The Best Intentions, New York Times Magazine writer James Traub traces the entwined histories of Kofi Annan and the UN from 1992 to the present, and offers a definitive portrait of the institution’s role in the age of American dominance.
Is the United Nations boring and irrelevant? This book certainly is not. Call the organization a "haven of hypocrites" or "humanity's best hope," tote up its many miseries and few glories. But if you want to understand this vexing creature with its 192 heads, The Best Intentions is one of the finest guides around, indeed, the best in recent memory…Traub, always the dispassionate analyst, neither condemns nor condones. His is a melancholy tale, beautifully written and meticulously researchedabout a hero who was not so much flawed as indecisive, whose clout could never measure up to his lofty purpose. How could it? A secretary general is precisely what the title says: a secretary beholden to 192 bosses, all seeking power while pretending to serve the common good.